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Expectations are high this season for the Illinois State football squad, and the recent release of the Missouri Valley Football Conference's preseason poll reflects these expectations.

The Redbirds were picked to finish third in the conference in the poll, the best preseason selection since 2015. Coaches, media members and sports information directors made up the votes for the poll.

ISU returns 16 starters from a season ago, including the bulk of its defense, which was second in the MVFC in most defensive categories behind North Dakota State.  In total, 39 letter-winners from last season return.

NDSU (392 points, 32 first place votes) was nabbed to finish first after winning the national championship last season, while South Dakota State (348 points, four first placee votes) was picked to finish second. The Redbirds received three first place votes, while totaling 289 points.

Indiana State was close behind the 'Birds in fifth with 279 points and one first place vote. Northern Iowa (266 points), South Dakota (176 points), Youngstown Stae (153 points), Western Illinois (128 points), Southern Illinois (89 points) and Missouri State (80 points). 

The Redbirds are coming off of a season where they lost four of their last five games en route to a 6-5 overall record while missing the FCS playoffs for the second straight season. Norther Illinois will welcome the 'Birds for their opener on August 31 in Dekalb.

BLAINE LEWALLEN is the Sports Editor for The Vidette. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter at @blainelew3 

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